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  A Conversation With... Bill Pullen









Bill Pullen, Founder / Director, Joseph T. Neary Memorial Charity

About Bill Pullen

Born in England, Bill Pullen came to the United States in 1961 following his graduation from Hotel School in London and various training positions at 5-star hotels in London and Paris. He has spent his 50-year career in management positions at premium hotels and resorts in the U.S. and South America and was Director of Operations for two privately owned award-winning Holiday Inn properties in Florida for 15 years prior to his recent retirement.

Bill first joined SKAL, the International Association of Travel and Tourism Professionals, 42 years ago in Phoenix, Arizona and served as the club's president before relocating to Florida in 1976, where he was a founding member of the Palm Beach club and served as the club's second president. He was a member of the United States National SKAL Committee for 11 years and served as National President in 1989/90 prior to representing the U.S. as International Councillor for two terms.

He has served on numerous tourism committees and various CVB boards of directors and made his first visit to Sri Lanka in 1990 when he attended the International SKAL Congress as the International Councillor for the United States. While in Colombo, and through some unrelated events, Bill Pullen had reason to contact a small group of Apostolic Carmelite Sisters and, through this contact, he became aware of the work these dedicated nuns were doing to relieve the suffering of some of the poor inner-city children in the slum area of Wanathamulla in Colombo 8. It was not unusual for these Sisters to go begging for food at local markets to sustain about 70 youngsters from 4 months to 5 years old for whom they cared on a daily basis. A $5 bill could be a solution to the problem of giving these children their daily two cups of milk and a small meal for their lunch.

Moved by the needs of these Sisters and by Joe's recent passing, Bill encouraged Liam Sexton (Boston) and Gene Leonard (Chicago) to visit the Sisters and learn of the work they were doing. It seemed that even with only modest support, a little help would go a long way to relieving some of the difficulties these Sisters were encountering. With Joe's history of helping others, his love of children and his work in helping the homeless in his area, it seemed natural to dedicate any support for these children to him and his memory. Thus, the Joseph T. Neary Memorial Charity was founded. SKAL became an instrument of Peace and would become the catalyst in the relief of suffering for some of Colombo's poor.

In 1990, at the time of the Congress, a small convent and a building, which would become the Handicraft and Education Centre, were under construction, thanks to a grant from NORAD, a Norwegian agency giving assistance to projects in Third World countries. The Bethlehem Creche, which housed the nursery and day care facility, was, and still is, part of the same small campus, which is located in an area especially prone to severe flooding during the monsoon seasons. This contributed largely to the difficulties the Sisters had to endure. For several years efforts were made to resolve these flooding and drainage issues but they were not successful and some of the buildings began to deteriorate. Finally, in 2008, two of the buildings had to be demolished and the elevation of the land was raised sufficiently to prevent a reoccurrence of this problem.

To learn more: http://www.skal.org/dl/joeneary/joeneary.htm

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